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ACTION, ADVENTURE, AND ROMANCE ON REALITY TV
Jul 8, 2008
Author: Bobby Martin

Back in the eighties I scored my first win at Quaker City Dragway. I was a weekly bracket racer there going for points. Someone asked me (it was Christina Clements, who was actually running a factory-backed Yugo at the time) what it felt like to get my first win. I told her it wasn't that big a deal. I had been doing this long enough that winning was more a relief than anything else. After winning Top Alcohol Funny Car Eliminator at the NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, I can tell you beyond question, that it's not the same. It is now more than two weeks after our win, and I still haven't come down out of the clouds. I still get calls (today Dennis Taylor of Taylor Motorsports called), emails and cards. It's fantastic.

Being a longtime Division 3 guy, there's probably no bigger thrill than winning the Nationals at Norwalk. Lots of the old Quaker City gang was there, friends, family, and fans. It was like a fairy tale. The victory kiss with Lori with TV cameras and flash bulbs popping was just like the ending of a romantic movie. ESPN2 with Bob Frey, Dave Reiff, and Lauren Stauffer did a superb job of presenting our story. If you saw the broadcast, you saw they gave us plenty of air time. What you didn't see was the Winner's Circle. The Norwalk fans were there in droves, cheering, chanting, and just adding to the dream-like atmosphere of the whole day.

None of this is possible without Lori. She is just as much a racer as I am. We had a Funny Car for six years before we had a house. And we had our house for two years before there was any furniture in the living room. Not all wives would participate in that kind of arrangement. But she wasn't forced into it. It was her idea that I should race professionally.

The next piece of the puzzle was putting together a great crew. Mike Meeks has been with us for 7 years, then we brought in Larry Radke, then Kevin Wilhelms and Kyle Pelfrey. They are all part of the Parkertech team now.

What can I say about Frank and Dan Parker? These guys are top notch professionals. You know we not only won the race at Norwalk, we qualified Number One. That's car prep and tuning. Frank and Dan have been racing together for more than 30 years. It's like one guy with two brains the way they work. It makes for a formidable combination.

There were a lot of teams at this race that I was concerned about. Von Smith and the Jackson team was one of them. That's a great operation there, and Von has been driving for a while. He was already an established TA/FC star when I was just getting started. As a driver, I felt bad for Von, because I know how he felt after going through the sand. But it sure made things easier on me Sunday morning. Having a single to start the day helped me sleep a little better. A lot has been written and said recently about Andy Bohl. What lots of people don't know is he gets lots of help from Frank Parker. He ran a 5.63 in round two versus our 5.62, so reputation or not, Andy was ready to race. His smoking the tires I think is just a testimony of his respect for Frank and Dan. One of the advantages of qualifying on top was that we didn't have to face all the tough cars ourselves. Jay Blake's Permatex car and the Sheetz Racing Marc White-mobile were gone in round two. Bob Newberry and Nick Bastaio did an awesome job in their race with Frank Manzo. But after all the gun-fire and smoke had cleared, Steve Harker was still there. Rats. I just got past him in the final at Chicago, so I thought he'd be after me this time. He was. Did you see that race? Both cars ran 5.62 at 256. That's just sick.

Now about that finish. The "slide for life" at the end of the run was just the thing to put an exclamation point on our team's victory. If there ever was a "Jesus Take the Wheel" moment, that was it. Even the Safety Safari gang was cheering at the end. They call it the "pre-sand sound." It's the unique screech that big drag slicks make when they're skidding on asphalt. The Safety crew knows when they hear that distinctive howl, it's time to get ready to pull a car out of the sand pit. When the Parkertech Racing, Lane Automotive/CAP Charger slid sideways to a safe stop just a few feet from the sand, the safety crew paused for a moment in disbelief, then applauded, then pushed the car into position for the winner's TV interview. I climbed out of the car with enough adrenaline pumping to power a small city. I was relieved when ESPN2 said there would be a delay before I was to go on camera. I wouldn't have been able to talk at all if they came to me right away!

To see what our local newspaper, The Beaver County Times says about the race and Funny Car racing in general, click here
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